Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The shopping diet

In response to a previous post where I had confessed to seeking comfort in shopping during a rough time, a follower helpfully pointed out that shopping triggers a release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain. This is our pleasure response - whether it be caused by sex, smoking, alcohol, chocolate, or, as we now know, buying something - when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of whats going on with your neurons, apparently its all pretty much the same. So it makes sense that Psychiatrists are now starting to discuss shopping addiction in the same way as we already think about gambling addiction, compulsive eating, and so on. So this is why we shop! It triggers the release of our natural happy brain juice.
Interesting, isn't it, how the other things we do that trigger our pleasure response - taking drugs, having sex, eating chocolate - have been cast in various ways as 'naughty' or morally reprehensible(to varying degrees), yet shopping hasn't. Its not to say that smoking and eating high fat foods don't come with their attendant risks and draw backs, and I'm not advocating these, but if you think about it, shopping for and buying things you don't technically need isn't really all that good for us either - in terms of the effect it has on your bank balance, your home (who else has a paucity of storage?), your planet, those Chinese sweatshop workers......Thing is that buying things makes the world go round, huh, so noone really wants us to think that maybe its not quite ok.
Think of the multibillion dollar dieting industry. What if we were to funnel some of that focus and effort to control our impulses into buying less stuff? Maybe we should all let ourselves eat a bit more chocolate and try to go on a bit of a shopping diet instead.


  1. Buying things makes the world go around, but distribution of resources is followed by reorientation of supply, so if we all stopped buying useless junk the supply would shift to provide more competition in the things we did need, such as services to redistribute second hand things for instance! So at the end of the day it's the Western pro-consumerism attitude that drives the supply, and withholding our purchasing power is just another flux in the demand pattern. Hmmm.

  2. nicely put, thanks for that comment :)